United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that corruption is not only a crime but also immoral and the "ultimate betrayal" of public trust, while calling on the international community to work together and stamp out the global scourge, in all its forms.
"Corruption is criminal, immoral and the ultimate betrayal of public trust," the UN chief said in a statement on Thursday, Xinhua news agency reported.
The secretary-general underlined that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, corruption was proving to be even more damaging in its impact on the most vulnerable.
"The response to the virus is creating new opportunities to exploit weak oversight and inadequate transparency, diverting funds away from people in their hour of greatest need," the UN chief said.
Corruption during the pandemic can seriously undermine good governance globally, and send the world even further off-track in its efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he added.
There are also very direct risks to health. "Unscrupulous merchants peddle faulty products such as defective ventilators, poorly manufactured tests or counterfeit medicines," said Guterres, noting that collusion among those who control supply chains has led to outrageous price hikes, skewing the market and denying many people life-saving treatment.
The United Nations will continue to prioritize transparency and accountability, in and beyond the COVID-19 response, the UN chief pledged.
The secretary-general called on governments to be careful and not act in haste, making sure to vet suppliers, and ensure fair pricing of essential goods as supply chains continue to be under strain.
He also urged everyone to join hands against corrupt and exploitative acts.
"We must work together to stop such thievery and exploitation by clamping down on illicit financial flows and tax havens; tackling the vested interests that benefit from secrecy and corruption; and exercising utmost vigilance over how resources are spent nationally," said Guterres.
"We must create more robust systems for accountability, transparency and integrity without delay," he added.
Guterres also called for governments and leaders to be transparent and accountable, and for businesses to act responsibly, highlighting the importance of a vibrant civic space and open access to information.
"Technological advances can help increase transparency and better monitor procurement of medical supplies," said the secretary-general, adding that anti-corruption bodies should be supported and empowered.